Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

What type of toys should I give my 9-month-old baby ?

What toys should my 9 month old be playing with? We have a basket full of rattles and soft-shaped contrast toys which I think she is bored with now. I look in the shops and think most things look either too difficult or too easy for her. How do I know if a toy will help her development? Should I look for toys marked with her age now or for a few months time? Can you give me an idea of how I should play with her?

To a nine month old everything she handles is a toy. Watch any baby of this age with a wooden spoon and plastic container and you will notice how intently she explores them. Your baby learns all the time whatever she is doing.

Most toys in shops are marked with ages, but are only a general guide to what a baby between those ages is capable of doing. Your baby may only just be reaching those milestones or she may be nearly at the next stage already.
When selecting toys for her think what she is able to do already. Can she hold a small object in each hand? Can she pass them from hand to hand? If she is given a selection of small brick cubes she may now be able to build two, possibly three into a tower. Look at stacking rings which help her place objects on top of each other.

Is she crawling or trying to crawl? Soft balls and wheeled toys can be chased.
Does she move small objects from one container to another? Stacking cups are ideal for this.

Does she want to stand up and cruise about the furniture? There are activity tables in various forms which will be stable enough for her to stand at.
Encouraging your baby to play does not always mean showing her how a toy works. If you have bought a toy suitable for her developmental stage she will discover for herself how it works. This is how she plays. By stepping back and observing, you allow her to learn at her own pace.

Whilst at this age your baby will still want you to be within her sight, it is not essential to play with her all the time. Let her have time and space to work things out alone.

Look at each toy before buying and try to see how it will help her with skills she already has and encourage her further to explore the toy on her own.
Many of today’s toys are battery-operated. Although there is a place for one or two of these in your child’s toy box, look out for toys which may seem simpler but offer greater opportunities for learning and developing.

Your baby’s sense of touch is well-developed and she will enjoy different tactile experiences. Well-made wooden toys are a worthwhile investment; bricks, cars, bead frames, simple shape sorters can all be readily found.
There are plenty of textured, feely toys available as well as board books which incorporate different textures. Show her how to feel the surfaces with her fingers. She also uses her mouth and tongue to feel with, which is why everything goes into her mouth. Remember this when selecting toys and playthings.

To develop her manipulation skills which are refined by now, look for activity centres which all offer a good variety of moving parts. Things to turn, twist, push and pull all require different movements of her fingers and hands.
As well as conventional toys, everyday household objects can be given to her, providing you check them for rough, sharp edges or small pieces which can be swallowed. Providing her with a basket full of household objects can be fun. Look around for different textures, such as smooth, rough, shiny and soft. What looks like just a bottle brush to you will give her plenty of chances to explore its qualities with her hands and mouth. Include as much variety as you can and change the objects on a regular basis so there will always be plenty more discoveries for her to make. Quality is more important than quantity. Too many toys can overwhelm her, and she will probably pay more attention to the box and wrappings than yet another toy.

Only give her one or two toys at a time and keep things stored in cupboards or storage containers. Begin to organize her toys, such as books in one box, bricks in another so she will not be confused once she is mobile enough to explore the boxes for herself. Too many toys at once will overwhelm a baby and they end up not really exploring the full potential of anything as they move endlessly from toy to toy.

Have different toys for certain times of day. For instance, bath-toys which remain in the bathroom and quiet-time toys such as a musical soft toy.

All babies learn as they play. If you watch your baby and see how she learns new skills, you will be able to provide her with a rich learning environment.
At times you will interact with her and enjoy stories and rhymes together, but be conscious of how much she learns by herself when provided with suitable playthings.